By shortly after 1 PM we were aboard our ferry again and soon on our way back across Cadiz Bay. Although there was still quite a cool breeze out on the open water, we passed two or three small open boats bobbing away on the swells as the occupants tried their luck at fishing. As on the outward trip, we again met the sister ferry coming out of El Puerto when we were about half-way across. Off in the distance I could see the joint Spanish/American naval base at Rota as well as the lighthouse near the entrance to El Puerto harbour - but they were too far away for any interesting shots. As we slowed down to enter the docking area in El Puerto, it was interesting to see the array of rusted and battered working boats of all sizes descriptions tied up along the channel.
I was happy to have managed this little cruise, the only one of our trip. Our car stood almost alone in the parking lot when we docked, so we soon paid our modest parking fee, picked up our bags from the hotel and then found our way out of El Puerto onto the inland highway over the mountains toward our next stop - this time on the Mediterranean coast.
In the summer months, El Puerto de Santa Maria is one of the main focal points for pleasure activities involving the Bay of Cadiz, sheltered as it is from the worst effects of the Atlantic Ocean. There are several nice beaches along the coastline and this city of 100,000 has Playa de la Puntilla all to itself almost in the centre of town! We discovered it on our first night in town when we took a little exploratory drive after checking into our hotel - we could actually have walked to it if we had known it was there! Puntilla is quite a broad beach with fine sand, one of several beaches that stretch from the Rota area further into the bay, with pinion pine trees making a nice backdrop (they lined the road up to our hotel too!). It was already 6 PM (in late-December) by the time we had our little excursion, so there was not much activity taking place as a cool wind blew in off the water.
The unique position of Cadiz at the end of the long narrow promontory that resulted in the creation of the Bahia de Cadiz has provided the city with one of the world's great anchorage spots - on the doorstep of both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. This view from our ferry shows the small commercial port where container ships dock and the ferry terminal is located - the much larger natural harbour where ships can wait at anchor is located out of sight at the left and along the inside of the spit of land Cadiz is built on.
Although the harbour was once a major Roman port, Cadiz really started to come into its own in the 1500s thanks to the wealth pouring into Spain from its new-found colonies in the Americas and the Far East. These treasure fleets were preyed upon by English 'pirates' such as Sir Francis Drake and Hawkins and this eventually led to the most famous event in the port's history when the King of Spain assembled his fleet there for an invasion of England. In a 1587 pre-emptive strike, Drake and his fleet of ships captured the harbour for three days, destroying thirty-one Spanish vessels and capturing six others to disrupt their plans of attack.
As for me, I was happy to watch the harbour tugs going about their business as the container ship shown here cast off her lines and began to head out at the same time as our return ferry to El Puerto!
We made it back to the ferry terminal in plenty of time to catch the next boat out for Cadiz - in fact we were able to watch it's approach and docking procedures, which was great fun for me due to being born and raised on Canada's Atlantic Ocean coastline. The Consorcio de Transportes Bahia de Cadiz terminal has a very nice parking area which requires you to obtain a ticket from a kiosk when you enter and later pay whatever the necessary fee is when you leave (a very reasonable rate I thought when we returned about 3 hours later).
The ferry terminal was quite efficient at issuing our tickets (2 Euros per adult each way), after which we simply stood watching the docking and disembarkation procedures as our ferry arrived. It turned out to be the 'Bahia Cadiz Primero' which was one of the first two ferries to take up this route to Cadiz.
Passenger loading procedures went well and we were soon underway on a beautiful morning for a voyage as we enjoyed both looking back at central El Puerto and also ahead at the luxury craft moored along the Guadalete River (3rd and 4th photos). The bulk of the few passengers on-board at this time of the year stayed below decks, but I enjoyed the fresh air above as our triple-hulled ferry powered out of El Puerto (5th photo).
Since Cadiz sits on a spit of land jutting out into the ocean it is surrounded on three sides by seawalls to protect it from the sea and of course there are forts and castles ringing it on all sides.
In the first photo you can see the western sea wall that gets hit hardest by the ocean waves coming in. The second photo shows a group of fishermen who have constructed a homemade ladder to access the ocean for their fishing..after taking a good look at the ladder I would purchase my fish in the market.
The third photo shows a fancy beach house near the San Sebastian and Santa Catalina castles on the seafront.
The fourth photo show the Santa Catalina Castle with its corner turrets that have become almost a symbol of forts in Spain.
The last photo shows the San Sebastian Castle on its island in the sea, which today has a causeway that enables you to walk out to the castle.
The walk along playa victoria beach to the centre is just beautiful at any time of the day. It doesnt feel too warm in the day because of the wind and its great when the edge of the city comes into view-like something out of a bourne ultamatum film. In the early evening the walk is just as stunning as you can admire the sunsets which really are the best i've seen.
Going out of the old centre this is the first beach you come to.
It has some great views as you can see the cathedral and the old centre of Cádiz close up. This beach is better than La Caleta (the beach in the old centre of Cádiz) so it is worth the two minute walk from La Puerta Tierra to get here. If you continue walking the beach changes name but you can walk from Santa Maria to the end of Cádiz with no obstacles in the way.
Though in summer this part of the beach gets the most crowded as it plays host to those who live behind it, those coming from the centre and usually a lot of the foreigners that visit Cadiz.
The ironic thing is the sand here isn't as nice or white as the quieter parts of the beach such as Cortadura.
It is a very popular place to go body boarding though and the water is often dotted with little black bobbing figures! If you like body boarding or want to give it a try then come to this part of the beach.
The first must see activity is seeing the sunset from Playa Victoria. It never disappoints. I used to live in a flat with a sea view of Playa Victoria (the best beach in Cadiz city). The ocean has so many faces to charm you with.
Playa Victoria is one of the beaches that goes along the road from San Fernando to Cadiz centre. Although it is really one long beach it has 3 names: Cortadura, Playa Victoria and Playa Santa Maria. You can see all the way to the Cathedral looking to the right and San Fernando to the left.
You can sit out in any one of the beach bars and enjoy the sunset sipping a refreshment. Or you can take a romantic walk along the shoreline watching the sun slip below the sea and filling the sky with, pinks, reds, yellows and oranges. As the sun is just above the horizon it appears as a large pinkish red glowing ball. It really is a sight to behold.
The pinkish light on the sea and on the normally fine whitish sand give everything a surreal look and feel.
Cadiz is approached from the south by the long golden beaches of Costa de la Luz.
We took a picnic and had a bracing walk but my word that Atlantic wind was really cold.
For visits later in the year when the sun removes the chill factor these beaches are understandably becoming more and more popular as people desert the overdeveloped costas further north.
El Palmar is Vejer de la Frontera's nearest beach only 12-15 km from the beautiful white town and another 12-15km from Los Caños de Meca.
I visited the beach on a Monday afternoon in July. As you can see it is almost deserted and stunningly beautiful. Behind the beach instead of ugly high-rise flats (typical of the Costa del Sol) Costa de la Luz's El Palmar has a couple of restaurants and a few country houses dotted around the tanned rolling hills.
La Caleta is the beach in the old town of Cadiz city. It is a lot Smaller than the other beaches that sweep along the new town (and not quite as nice), but it is still a sight to see with the white peer like structure, the docked rowing boats and the Faro (lighthouse) perched at the end of a tiny strip of land that juts out from the beach.
You can visit the Castillo (castle or fortress) de Santa Catalina right beside this beach. Here you may be lucky enough to catch a free sundown concert of live music or to see an interesting art or photo exhibition.
You can visit Santa Catalina Mondays to Fridays between 10am and 6:30pm. Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays from 10am until 1pm. It is free.
Santa Catalina was built on the order of Felipe II in 1598 after the English attacked the city.
La Playa de la Caleta is the only beach situated within the old city walls, between two fortresses, San Sebastian and Santa Catalina. It is about 400m long and 30m wide at low tide and has fine sand and relatively shallow water. Apparently a scene in one of the James Bond movies, Die Another Day, was filmed here. The white building on the beach was supposed to be in Cuba although in reality it was in Cadiz!
Travelling with kids between June and September? Well this time may just come in handy for you.
The Ballena Azul is a playground/activity park for kids situated on the playa victoria part of the beach.
Further up playa victoria (past the hotel) you can find other activities for kids or young people some directed by groups of helpers set up by the local government. I think I've seen some type of martial arts going on and I believe this year (2007) they will have Warhammer games workshops there too.
Even further up there is a place to 'rent' for free board games, books or play, ping pong or even table football (all on the beach).
Playa de la Victoria is a beautiful sandy beach that stretches down the west side of the causeway linking Cadiz to the mainland. The waves roll in from the Atlantic, but if the sea is calm, it is wonderful to cool your tired feet paddling along the sea edge ! And if you get hot and thirsty, there are plenty of bars on the beachfront !
There are also buses along the front to get you back to the old city, and the railway is only a short walk.
The beach in Cadiz was crowded, and surprisingly the attire was more American than European. Guys in speedos and topless women were few and far between. I failed to forget that Cadiz is on the Atlantic and not the Mediterranean, and so the water was quite cold.